What’s the Difference Between Drug Possession and Drug Trafficking?

If you've been charged with a drug crime, it's important to understand whether you've been charged with drug possession or drug trafficking. These are two different sets of crimes with very different consequences. Here's what you should know.

What Is Drug Possession?

Drug possession is the fact of having an illegal drug or a controlled drug without having a prescription for it. The drugs might be on your person, in your home, in your car, or in another area under your control.

There are different levels of drug possession. Some types of drugs have more serious charges than others. The amount that you had can also affect the level of the charge.

What Is Drug Trafficking?

Drug trafficking is having drugs with the intent to sell them. This can be determined in two ways.

First, the police might have actual evidence that you're a drug dealer. They might see you selling drugs. They could also monitor your phone or other communications. Informant tips are another way police find out who is selling drugs.

Second, having a large amount can automatically be drug trafficking. The idea is that once you have over a certain amount, it can't possibly be for your own personal use.

Why Is a Drug Trafficking Charge Worse Than Drug Possession?

Drug trafficking generally has higher charges and consequences than drug possession. Trafficking can more quickly become a felony, have longer prison sentences, or have mandatory minimum sentences.

The idea in the law is that drug traffickers cause more harm. Without drug traffickers, people wouldn't have access to illegal drugs. In addition, a drug trafficker is in it for money, while someone possessing drugs could be fighting an addiction. That means judges are much less lenient with drug traffickers.

How Can You Beat a Drug Trafficking Charge?

One of the goals in a drug trafficking charge (beyond trying to get the charges dropped) is to get the charges down to drug possession. Even when the facts technically suggest drug trafficking, the judge and prosecutor do have discretion.

It may be possible to show that you had no intent to sell drugs even if you had a large quantity that technically amounted to trafficking. In cases where subjective intent matters, you may be able to prevent the prosecution from proving intent beyond a reasonable doubt with a strong defense.

To learn more about the difference between drug possession and drug trafficking, contact a local drug possession lawyer today.